So, you know how I love dinosaurs and Star Wars and stabby/fighty movies and The Beastmaster? Well, I do. That will never change. But I’m still a lady with lady parts including a lady heart with a tendency to squish. So sometimes I like to watch lady movies. There are, however, many trite and true elements of the “chick-flick”/”rom-com”/”rhyme time” formula that have, of late, started to seriously piss me off. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the aughts, as a decade, have really let me down, romantically-comedically/chickilly-flickilly speaking. Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl and allllllll the ladies who disgraced themselves in He’s Just Not That Into You can go screw (oh yes, especially you, Ginnifer Goodwin, I thought we had something special). So it’s the flicks of the 90’s (oh yes and the 80’s and the screwball 30’s/40’s) that I end up revisiting time and again.
(Definitely) Maybe I’ve grown cynical. I mean, one can’t utter the phrase “they just don’t make them like they use to” without taking a moment to reflect. No, f*ck it, get off my lawn. Where are our Megs and Sandys?!? No, don’t talk to me of The Proposal. I’ll start ranting about Betty White humiliating herself in Native American garb and then Dustin will fire me for speaking ill of Ryan Reynolds. So, yes, where was I? The 90’s? True, it was the decade (my terrible teens) when I was at my most susceptible to stories of comedy and romance. Right. So here are the five flicks that, when they show up on Lifetime (or Oxygen, or WE, or It’s All The Same Really), I will always watch. Happily. Also, before I get to the films, three words on Lifetime: Television For Women Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. What. Condescending. Drivel.
The Cutting Edge: This is possibly the most formulaic of all the flicks on this list…but my god how I love it. Extra points for wrapping the classic underdog sports film tropes (training montage!) in the classic, flaky sparring lovers tropes (revelatory drinking montage!). That makes it like the film version of a pigs in a blanket. I don’t feel good about consuming it…but that won’t stop me. For the ladies there are figure skating outfits and routines, D.B. Sweeney and toe picks. For the gents…um…that one hockey scene? Locke from “Lost” when he still had some hair? That’s manly, right? Nope, gents, there’s nothing for you here. Move along.
Reality Bites: This film could not be more beautifully cast if it tried. I’ve grown to disdain its leads (Hawke, Ryder and Stiller) but that doesn’t at ALL mar my enjoyment of this film because, you know what, they all play rather unlikable characters if you think about it. But this film is as if some mad, time-traveling scientist took a giant beaker of 90’s juice and distilled it into a few, pure, precious drops. MTV! The Gap! Janeane Garofalo! That Lisa Loeb song! Ugch, I love it.
Strictly Ballroom: Not only a precursor to the frenetic Luhrmann lushsterpieces that are Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge, this flick also dances the stylish socks off of all the NEVERENDING dance films that clog the cinemas these days. (Seriously, I see you on my lawn. Get off!) Eminently quotable (“No! New! Steps!”) and possessing a killer soundtrack, all this movie needs is a slice of Aussie beefcake dancing around, sweatily, in a tank top. Oh…wait.
The Truth About Cats And Dogs: You know how I mentioned Janeane Garofalo earlier? The queen of 90’s sassibility? Well this is her most mainstream role, unexpectedly headlining a romantic comedy. (Shhhh, we don’t speak of The Matchmaker in my household.) I love this film for giving us the delight that is Ben Chaplin. For introducing an adolescent me to the concept of phone sex. For making me really like Uma Thurman and for giving me a smart, accomplished female lead who despite her lack of confidence undergoes ZERO physical transformation in order to get her happy ending. This isn’t some blonde screen goddess going brunette to convince us she’s mousy. This is no Zellwegger gaining weight to play a role. This is Janeane Garofalo, playing Janeane Garofalo and kicking ass at it.
Four Weddings And A Funeral: This is a controversial one, to be sure. I know many of you hate both Andie MacDowell and Love Actually (which would never have existed without this, writer/director Richard Curtis’s break-out hit). Look, I’m no fan of MacDowell myself. I cut her out of that photo down there so all you can see are the lingering fronds of her stupid enormous floppy hat on the left edge. When I think of Four Weddings and A Funeral, in fact, I think of it as more of an ensemble piece than a story of two lovers. The supporting characters are lovingly and beautifully drawn (Curtis pulled off the same trick in Notting Hill) and acted to the nines. This is where I first saw Kristen Scott Thomas and she still rivets me to the spot when she confesses her unrequited love to Grant’s undeserving fop. But the true heart of this film is Simon Callow and John Hannah as Gareth and Matthew. Hannah’s reading of Auden’s “Funeral Blues” kills me, no matter how many times I watch it. I’ve included a video of it below because what’s an article on movies for womenfolk without a little weeping? So, in conclusion, Andie MacDowell in the rain and Hugh Grant’s fumble/stumble/stutter act? Not my cuppa. Every other character? Fantastic. I’d marry them all. Four times.
Joanna Robinson has something in her eye. Dammit. Let’s go play Drunkassic Park!